Researching People or Pestering People?

This trimester, I have been diving into the struggles and interesting ways to create documentaries. Yet across my study this trimester I have found across multiple people all have different opinions of what defines a documentary. So that means I need to find out. What is the true definition?

To do this I have found some written source material in my universities library, in addition, viewed the Capturing Reality (Ferrari, 2008) Documentary which included the opinions of many successful documentors. By comparing these two sources I believe I will either have a verdict of which better defines what a documentary is or better yet what I believe it is.


Looking firstly at the Capturing Reality Documentary their were multiple documents which also had custom views of documentaries. Yet what most of them agreed on was that each Documentary had parrel stories based on building blocks of relationships and openness of the interviewees. As well that they are factual stories based on human personality and interaction which can change at any moment. For example, my favourite quote from the documentary was by Serge GiguereI often compare my style to jazz. You have a theme and whoops you let yourself move away from it. Whoops, you return to the theme. You need to give yourself room to play throughout the process, it can’t be right you don’t follow a treatment to the letter” From this quote I take it that his interpretations of documentaries are that they are a journey with a person where you can’t control or stick to the same topic but eventually you can come back and you would have learnt more on the way. Like jazz, you have to make it up as you go sometimes. To me, this speaks to me that no 2 documentaries are the same and when making you don’t know where you will end up, just as the viewer won’t know.


The second source which I borrowed from my university’s library is Film Art: An Introduction (10th addition) states that “As a type of film, documentaries present themselves as factually trustworthy, but across film history, many documentaries have been challenged as inaccurate. An Inconvenient Truth, Vice President Al Gore’s film about global warming, was accused in some quarters of presenting weak arguments and skewed data. Even if it claims proved false, however, An Inconvenient Truth would not then turn into a fictional film. An unreliable documentary is still a documentary. Just as there are inaccurate or misleading news stories, so there are inaccurate or misleading documentaries.” In this statement, I take that the author sees the documentary as a media and that it can be tainted and obscured against its genre’s medium yet it will not be classed as a different genre if not true. In addition that it’s not about the data or the facts, in fact, it’s about the story behind it and the perception of the filmmaker.

When looking at these two definitions and understanding of the documentary they both agree that it’s the film maker’s perspective, in addition, that it’s about the story, not the fact that the end result matters. Looking at both perspectives the first source focuses on the filmmaker and their stive and challenges they face in getting information. Whereas the second source focuses on the audience’s view and the outcome of the documentary. With these two outlooks, the film’s maker is like an investigator the audience is reading the report.

With these two perspectives, I personally feel more at ease with my interpretations of what is a documentary and with the comparison of the filmmakers ideal and the audience’s outcome I feel there is a mid ground for what I have to focus on to please both.

1. Be able to factual and engaging

2. Have my fun yet make sure I am not wasting my own time or the audiences

3. Strive to have something I can take away and the audience can take away at the end of it.


Ferrari, P. (2008). Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary [Video]. (Netherlands).

Bordwell, D., & Thompson, K. Film Art: An Introduction (10th ed., pp. 350-355).


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